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Workout Plateaus

by Ron Kurtus (updated 17 November 2022)

Physical exercise and workouts are good for maintaining muscle tone, strength and endurance, as well as to keep your body operating effectively and efficiently.

Once you reach a level of conditioning, the workout may begin to feel flat. It is called a workout plateau. You can then either try to increase your level or move to a different type of workout.

Questions you may have about this are:

This lesson will try to answer those questions. There is a mini-quiz and list of resources toward the end of this lesson.

Exercise is about growth

Exercising improves muscle strength and endurance. This is a form of growth. The process of growth feels good. You get more energy and you feel great.

Once you reach the point where your muscles are sufficiently handling the workout, it seems that the energy drops and you start to feel like your "old self" again. In some cases, you may even feel worse that before you started exercising.

This happens with competitive athletes. They want to peak at the right time, otherwise they get stale and lose their edge.

In some cases, the body may simply need some rest. Or perhaps your body is simply telling you to step up to the next level.

Go up to next level

Once you reach a plateau of good conditioning for the type of exercise or workout you are doing, it is time to go to a new level or to get some variety. It could mean that your body is hungry for some new challenges.

Sticking with your current program will keep your body fat and blood pressure down. But powering up your workout can reap other important benefits-improved cardiovascular fitness, steady weight loss, and increased muscle tone.

Change routine

Try infusing stints of speed or extra intensity into your workout. If you run or walk, sprint to the next tree or mile marker, or really push yourself up the next hill. If you swim, add a few extra laps.

Need some inspiration? Setting specific, obtainable goals like training for a 10K race or a tennis tournament can help you take your workout up a rung and might make exercising more fun.

Varying your workout can also help you break through a plateau. If your aerobics class has become routine, try kick boxing or a Latin dance class. Moving your body in new ways will work your muscles differently, paying off in increased fitness. Keeping your routine fresh is a key in staying fit. 

Competitive sports are often good to keep the edge. You are always pushing to win, even if you are staying at one point in the competition.


After following an exercise regime for a while, your body reaches that level of conditioning such that continued workouts can become boring or even not productive. You can try a different form of exercise to work out different muscles, or you can push yourself to new levels by challenging yourself to do even more than before. Sometimes competitive exercises can continually push you to new levels or can keep you enthusiastic about your workouts.

Reward yourself after a tough workout

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Fitness Online - Stories from major fitness publications on sports and exercise.

Vitality Resources


(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

The Ultimate Workout Log: An Exercise Diary and Fitness Guide by Suzanne Schlosberg. Houghton Mifflin, 1998, $12 (paperback). This six-month fitness log helps track progress of your cardiovascular and weigh training workouts.

The Official Five Star Fitness Boot Camp Workout: The High-Energy Fitness Program for Men and Women by Andrew Flash and Paul Frediani, Hatherleigh Press, 1999, $14.95 No-nonsense guide lays out military training exercise regimens.

Top-rated books on Physical Fitness


Students and researchers

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